Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vegan Kimchi, Recipe

Fish allergic but still love Kimchi, the spicy, fermenty national fish of Korea? Chef Billy Brigtsen made me some fish-free Kimchi for my bday party, vegan Kimchi that I’m still enjoying. Here’s how he did it.

Copyright Billy Brigtsen

2 heads of savoy cabbage, leafs separated and submerged in a salt water solution (one quart of water to 1/4 cup of salt ) for 24 hours.

Rinse the cabbage leaves thoroughly in running, cold water and pat dry.

Kindly make a paste with the following and fold into the cabbage leaves:

• 2 TB garlic
• 2 TB ginger
• 1/2 Cup red chile, ground and blended with a few drops of warm water to make a paste
• 1 apple
• 1 yellow onion

In a large bowl or other large vessel thoroughly blend together this beautiful mess with your hands. By using your hands, you guarantee that every bit of cabbage will be coated with this pungent and spicy blessing.

Transfer this to a ceramic container, cover it, and let it sit out at room temp overnight for 24 hours.

Kept in the fridge, this will only develop in flavor.

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Nuts / With Nuts

The last few years, I’ve spent Thanksgiving with my first cousin Gregg and his family. Gregg’s wife Lynn coordinates the meal, providing the main dishes and then we all supplement with sides.

She does serve nuts but that’s okay with me; as long as I know where they are, I can avoid them. There’s no fish during our Thanksgiving and wheat is easily avoided as most everything is made from scratch and Lynn can tell me the ingredients.

*If you feel uncomfortable with your allergens even in the room, talk with a food allergy coach about your anxiety and a board certified allergist about the real risks to you.*

Before the day, Lynn and I go over the menu and my food allergy/intolerance needs. I also offer to bring a dish or two. This year Lynn read about the bacon fudge I made over the summer and requested some for dessert. Of course! This time I used some Guittard chocolate samples (Guittard is made in a gluten-free, peanut-free facility. Here’s their allergen statement ) and Applegate organic GF/DF bacon. It was a huge hit. Fudge - so easy to make and so beloved. Who knew.

When I arrived on site, Lynn walked me we go through the dishes that had nuts that I should steer clear of. Usually, there’s one pie with nuts on the dessert table (I don’t eat desserts anyway) and someone brings a sweet potato dish that has nuts. I asked my mom if she would make a safe sweet potato dish for me this year. She did and there were two sweet potato with marshmallow dishes, clearly marked.

With Nuts:

No Nuts:

Everything had its own serving utensil. And I'm the designated first on the buffet line. It was all that simple. And delish.

How was your Thanksgiving? Did it go well? Did you institute any new strategies? Or were there things you’d do differently next year?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Patroon Restaurant, NYC

I walked in to Patroon's front room and it was positively buzzing with men in suits – a seriously busy lunch crowd in midtown Manhattan. I had called ahead, and the manager said food allergies were not a problem they dealt with them all of the time.

(I hear this a lot these days in NYC when I make a reservation – do you?)

The General Manager personally took care of our table. Lovely. I was feeling brave, so I ordered the prix fixe, a deal at $27.00 and here was the surprise: I didn’t have to send anything back.

How many times have I ordered a salad, plain no dressing, that has come distinctly not plain and dressed? That is the norm (dishes not coming as ordered) and it always gets sent back, often to the consternation of the staff. Well, Patroon, during a busy weekday lunch, listened to my order and the salad came out dry. It may sound like a small matter but it can be an indicator of a larger issues: how well does a restaurant staff listen to your food allergy needs. The chicken paillard was delish as was the sorbet for dessert - and all food allergy safe.

Patroon, a venture of restaurateur Ken Aretsky was professional, pleasant and corporate. But that’s not a bad thing here when they actually listen to your needs during a busy time.

Good job and thanks Patroon. I’ll be back.

Patroon Restaurant
160 East 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
(212) 883-7373

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Biquick Gluten-Free, Drop Scones

When I was a teenager (and new lacto-ovo vegetarian) I would make drop scones on the weekends from Bisquick. We always had some in the house, my dad was a big weekend waffle-iron guy. (He had old irons from the 1930s that were very seasoned and made perfect waffles every time.)

And then of course, in the last five years no wheat for me, so no Bisquick. When I started seeing their gluten-free mix on the shelves in small boxes I bought two to play with. One we made pancakes with over the summer (review here) and then this last box, I made a batch of drop scones.

Cut in some butter, whipped in three eggs which product a sticky batter. I spooned five into a pan and baked them as per the directions. They don’t rise per se, as you drop them is how they cook, but they do brown on the bottom nicely and when cooked through, sliced while still hot and buttered, yeah – pretty good. Commercial tasting, yes. But they always were. Fairly drama-free if you don’t want to go mix your own gluten-free flours. The batter for Bisquick gluten-free is generally more sweet and less salty/savory than I remember the original mix. However, I ate these scones with scrambled eggs (isn’t that a delight to do something so normal?) and wasn’t feeling that I that they were too dessert-y.

Thank you again Bisquick for creating the gluten-free line. I’m liking it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pickled Pears, Recipe

One of my favorite things the the chef made for my bday party was the quick pear pickle. He had gone to the green market that morning and the pears looked so luscious he borught them with him and last minute came up with this. (If you want to see what they look like, check out the video on YouTube.)


Pickled Seckel Pears
Copyright Billy Brigtsen

In a stainless steel-lined pot (preferable for cooking acidic foods) graciously combine the following and allow to simmer briskly for twenty minutes:

• 1 cup vinegar ( plain, white wine, champagne, or cider )
• 1 c water
• 2 tsp salt
• 3 TB agave nectar
• 1 TB coriander seeds
• 1 tsp chile flakes
• a sliver of ginger
• a bay leaf and a few cloves
• a shallot sliced

When this is finished simmering, add to it one ice cube rack's worth of cubes. This will bring the temperature down and will also provide a mild pickle for the pears, which is the most human interference they will need if they are at their peak.

At this time take a spoon and taste the pickle to adjust the contrast of flavors; the sweet, spicy, & salty should all be present and in line.

Pour this into a more fitting container that you've placed your eight halved and cored pears.

Keep in the fridge and see how long you can hold them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PTSD, Food Allergies

As a mental health worker, I understand that if you’ve experienced a traumatic event, like anaphylaxis, you will have a deeply emotional response to that event. As an Allergic Girl, who's also a mental health worker, I believe that there's an extra danger: if that emotional response goes unchecked and lingers, becoming disruptive to life’s normal functioning, that trauma can easily slip into PTSD. I hypothesized that this existed for those in the food allergic community who have experienced an anaphylactic event in my forthcoming book, Allergic Girl.

So, I was very excited to see this study abstract published recently:
CONCLUSIONS: People could develop PTSD and psychiatric comorbidity symptoms after their experience of anaphylactic shock. The way they coped with anaphylactic shock was affected by the severity of these symptoms. Past traumatic life events had a limited role to play in influencing outcomes.

More studies need to be done: this was a small sample (94 people), conducted through surveys that were mailed in but I’m glad to see this beginning – a look at the very real emotional consequence from severe and life threatening responses to food and how if left unchecked can interfere with normal life functioning.

If you think you fall into this category or have noticed typical symptoms, reach out to a mental health professional trained in dealing with trauma.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving, NYC

Recently an Allergic Girl blog reader asked me about dining out in NYC on Thanksgiving with food allergies.

I told her stick to high end hotels or white tablecloth and you’d probably fare well using my dining out strategies.

In addition, The New York Times, Sifty actually, did a list of which NYC restos are doing T-Day dinners. That might aid in finding a good white tablecloth resto to could cross-check with Allergic Girl Recommends.

Sidecar, NYC

The upstairs, upscale sister to the legendary PJ Clarke’s, Sidecar has a clubby atmosphere without the attitude. You enter a “secret” entrance on the side street, up a darkened stairwell to an open, bricked room -familiar, woodsy and homey – a meat lover’s heaven in midtown.

Jenn, the general manager used to work at Craftbar, so I lucked out when I went here for a recent business lunch – the GM was a food allergy ally. When I walked in, she introduced me to the executive chef, he and I had a quick conversation about what would be safe for me on their menu (basicially he said they could adjust anything I wanted) and I was ushered to a cozy booth.

The table next to us asked about the shellfish dish and I overheard a server say, “I’m allergic to shellfish so I couldn’t tell you but I hear it’s very good.” (See, food allergies are everywhere.)

I had my standard first time I’m at a new place dish: dry green salad and burger, no fries and they brought over some complimentary steamed vegetables as well. The server was solicitous and well versed in food allergies.

I’m looking forward to going back and trying more of their menu.

205 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022-4001
(212) 317-2044

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Allergic Girl, Allergen-Free Birthday

Here it is.

The bday menu.

• Collard greens, Swiss and red chard, and dill with pickled Seckel pears, kimchi, and lemon vinaigrette.

• Braised lamb shanks with rice flour dumplings, yams, & red wine gravy - topped with lavender buds & micro greens.

• Parfait of maple-baked Rome apples and frozen Redwood Hill goat's milk kefir.

So much fun and so delish - pear pickle and kimchi recipes are to come!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Picture it: New York City, 2010

Picture it: New York City, 2010.

A beautiful young Jewish girl lies on her couch reading the New Yorker magazine trying to relax while a handsome young Louisiana chef dredges, kneads, pours, drizzles, poaches, pickles and roasts in her kitchen. She waits, he braises; it's all she can do to not run into the kitchen to hover over him. She goes back to her New Yorker and naps. The guests arrive, the dinner is served and it's a resounding success; everything delicious and free of her allergens.

That chef was Billy Brigtsen and the girl...was Gina Lollobrigida.

Okay, okay it was really this Allergic Girl. And between you and me, I really did want to jump up every minute and see what he was doing. But this was my self-imposed leap. He had my full list of allergens, we went shopping together (you can watch us shop here) and he was using all of my bowls, pots and pans, dishes, knives, cutting boards and stuff from my cupboard (he did use some of his spices).

Still. You know. I had a few moments of: should I go check? I stopped myself because I had done everything humanly possible to allow him to create freely within my personal food allergy and food preferences. I wanted to let him create, without interruption from moi. The moment I remembered that was my goal and I had done all of my steps, I freed myself from distrust and took a nap. When I awoke, the shooter had arrived to take B-roll and the guests started to arrive.

I had a quick taste test of everything, swooning, and the party started.

The might be the best gift I've given to myself in a while.

Youtube video coming up!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Allergen-Free Corn Muffins

King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill sent me some samples to play with and I combined them in a glorious and ridiculously (for gluten-free anyway) recipe for quick corn muffins, just in time for a homemade brunch while my little non-allergic half-bro and I worked on his graduate school statement of purpose (remember those?).

Basically, I took King Arthur’s GF All Purpose Flour and Bob’s Red Mills corn meal and did a switcharoo on the Bob’s recipe. The first batch I totally forgot baking powder. There were too dense and anemic looking (see the left side of the picture) but edible. Then I added a teaspoon of baking powder to the second half of the batter, and sprinkled some raw turbinado sugar on top and voila, actual corn muffins piping hot, airy, light yet still corny and yum.

Have any of you tried any of the King Arthur Gluten-Free mixes and flour blends yet? Or the new line of different grade of cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shopping Day with the Chef

For my birthday, this year Chef Billy Brigtsen is cooking an allergen-free meal in my home for my friends and me.

Chef Billy Brigtsen and I had worked together at Blue Smoke for my Worry-Free Dinners. He has since started a private home cooking service with a strong focus on working with people with dietary restrictions. His viewpoint is very similar to the best chefs I’ve known, talked with and worked with: it’s a challenge to create something minus a few key ingredients not a Debbie downer.


Here is our provisional menu:

• Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, roasted with thyme & mint, wrapped in poached romaine lettuce leaves.

• Fig halves tossed with gremolata and olive oil

• Ribbons of collard greens with kimchi. Napa cabbage and red onions seasoned with garlic, ginger, red chile, onion, apple.

• Peking-style duck with rice crepes (egg, goats yogurt /milk, brown butter) and scallions

• Ace's Goats milk ice cream with a wedge of baked apple & maple syrup


The talented Ace Salisbury filmed our shopping journey so you can watch me, with my allergic stuffed nose, and Chef in his jaunty hat in this episode of Allergic Girl’s New Thing a Week: Shopping with the Chef. (Keep an eye out for Tom the butcher at The Meathook in Williamsburg, he was just featured in the New York Times, unbeknownst to moi.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Trust, Chefs

Trust has been on my mind especially as I’ve received quite a few emails lately about trust (maybe because of this or this): how to get it or how to regain it; how to build it or how to build upon it.

Trust takes time, patience, faith and a leap into the unknown. When it comes to food allergies and trust, there’s that added layer of fear based on past experience; eating something to which one is allergic can lead to an uncomfortable reaction, mild symptoms, severe problems or even an anaphylactic response. Sometimes your gut says, "Don’t trust" like mine did last April at that meditation retreat. That’s okay, listen to that, manage your risk and do not eat when you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes your gut says the opposite: it’s says, “Leap.”

Recently, I was contacted by Chef Billy Brigtsen. We had worked together at Blue Smoke for my Worry-Free Dinners. He has since started a private home cooking service and offered to cater my birthday party this coming week.

Talk about a leap – here it is. A professional chef, cooking a menu we designed, minus all of my allergens, in my home, with my friends.


Here’s the provisional menu (subject to the market):

• Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, roasted with thyme & mint, wrapped in poached romaine lettuce leaves.

• Fig halves tossed with gremolata and olive oil

• Ribbons of collard greens with kimchi. Napa cabbage and red onions seasoned with garlic, ginger, red chile, onion, apple.

• Peking-style duck with rice crepes (egg, goats yogurt /milk, brown butter) and scallions

• Ace's Goats milk ice cream with a wedge of baked apple & maple syrup

I'm planning on filming the shopping day and some of the prep so stay tuned for the results on this blog and on my YouTube channel.

Updates, Restaurants

The last few months, I’ve been out several business lunches. Most of them have been at upscale, white tablecloth midtown or midtown west restos. It wasn’t until I received an email last week, the last in a series from readers all over the country, asking when am I updating my site that I realized, whoops, those all should be added. So, stay tuned as I will roll out some review of these midtown, Teflon gems in the next few weeks.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Joan's, GF Great Bakes

I had heard about Joan’s GF Great Bakes but had never tried their products because they had tree nuts in their facility. I finally had a chance to meet Joan herself at this year's Suffolk County Celiac vendor fair and learn a vital fact: no more nuts in the facility!

Here’s what Joan had to say in an email about tree nuts in their facility and their packaging: "'Be aware that all of Joan’s GF Great Bakes packaging says "manufactured in a facility that process tree nuts". When we first opened 21/2 years ago we produced a date nut bread. So many customers requested a nut free facility that 18 months ago we discontinued the date nut bread and have been completely nut free from that time on. Joan’s GF Great Bakes packaging still has the disclaimer. We never used peanut products at any time and we are also soy free. The only soy product is soy lecithin in a pan spray and the chocolate chips'."

Of course, should you have any question please contact Joan’s GF Great Bakes directly to discuss because the packaging is confusing until they switch over.

Onto what I loved of what Joan’s GF Great Bakes sent.

A corn bread flat top muffin: these taste just like a corn muffin should. It held together nicely, with a light and fluffy texture. It was a little sugary sweet for my taste but didn’t stop me from gobbling it down, slathered in butter.

English muffin: lovely toasted, a little springy, but would make me happy to have with eggs in the morning, especially when traveling and gluten-free, nut-free breads are harder to come by.

Everything bagel: the crust, yes it had one, was firm and toothsome; the inside on the springy tapioca side but edible. The everything bagel flavor combination of seeds and powders was right though, garlicky and delicious.

Bialy: oh my, this puffed up to double its size when baked and formed a real baked bialy curst. Salty and onion-y, this was my favorite product. The inside is also tapioca-textured like the bagel but the baked crust was unlike anything else I’ve seen in the GF market.

I see why everyone’s been raving about Joan’s GF Great Bakes for years and now that they are nut-free I can join in the rave.

Thanks Joan’s GF Great Bakes!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Food Allergies

On Twitter a few weeks back I wrote that a friend’s employer had invited me over for Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) dinner. One response tweet in particular stopped me in my tracks: @allergicgirl do you find hosts that invite you seem 2 regret invite after learning of your allergy needs?

I know that happens in our community, a lot. So, let’s walk through how I handled this invitation and how you might handle a future dinner invite and get invited back.

First, I approached the event thinking it would be safe i.e. I used a positive attitude. Because I know I can take care of myself in any situation (medically and emotionally), I did my best to communicate my FA needs clearly and early and trusted my hostess would do her best to accommodate those needs. But, I planned to have a nice evening, full stop.

Second, I have all the emergency medications I need in any situation, on my person, at all times.

Third, I know my emergency plan (i.e. what to do, when.)

Forth, I know I’m not the focus of the event, in this case Shabbat was. If that means I need to eat a little something ahead of time so I’m not stuck, I do that. (I didn’t in this case.)

Fifth, I communicated my food allergy needs via email so it was all nice and neat and written out (See the verbatim below). NB: Included on the what I cannot eat list is what I can eat, helps with menu planning.

Dear Hostess,

Thank you for your kind invitation for shabbat dinner this Friday. I'm so looking forward to finally meeting you! Thank you, too, for going out of your way to accommodate my severe food allergies.
My list includes:
Allergic to all tree nuts [walnuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts etc]
Allergic to salmon - I avoid all fish
Allergic to eggplant
Allergic to honeydew and cantaloupe melons
Intolerant to wheat and soy [not an allergy but I will have a bad stomach ache]

I cannot consume any of these ingredients in any form -- nor can I consume anything that has come into contact with them via serving utensils, sauces, garnishes or toppings.

What I can eat:
Plain roasted meats or chicken
Green vegetables
Other fruits like citrus or berries
Fats like olive oil or butter

I know this is a lot, I'm am here to make this easy for you, let me know how I can help.

Thank you again and looking forward!

Based on this list, the hostess created a dinner that everyone could enjoy, especially me. We started with a choice of chicken consume or watercress soup, the entrée was brisket with onions and prunes (that was OMG good) with sides of steamed brown rice, baked white and sweet potatoes, steamed green vegetables (asparagus, broccoli and brussel sprouts) and roasted mushrooms. Dessert was a gorgeous plate of fresh fruits: everything on my list.

The hostess had posted my email on her referigertaor so everyone was fully aware of my needs. And get this; the hostess’s husband, a former New York City high ranking government official, was a banana baby in the 1940s. He said he lived on powdered milk and bananas for the first six years of his life. We had a long and very brisk conversation about all of that.

The dinner was lovely. And allergen-free. And fun! (Tips six and seven, bring a hostess gift and write a real thank you note, not an email.)

I know this sounds like an ideal. And definitely these days because I have a blog, a book and a business all about food allergies - if someone is inviting me over, they pretty much know that there are some allergies involved. But before all of that public stuff, I was still invited out. And if it felt like too much to deal with for the host/hostess, I’d offer to come by for cocktails or bring a dish I could eat to add to their meal.

Like Tim Gunn says I made it work. You can, too.